An employer asserting an English-only policy bears the burden of showing that a policy or practice is job-related and consistent with business necessity. If an employer successfully shows this, the employee must then show that an alternative policy or practice would fulfill the business need without a disparate impact.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in its long-standing compliance manual on English-only policies, provides examples of situations in which business necessity would justify an English-only rule:
- Communications with customers, coworkers, or supervisors who only speak English;
- Emergencies or other situations in which workers must speak a common language for safety reasons;
- Cooperative work assignments in which the English-only rule is needed to promote efficiency; and
- To allow a supervisor who speaks only English to monitor the employee’s performance if his job duties require communication with coworkers or customers.